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Health: Stroke Patients

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The department is publishing today a new national strategy to modernise service provision and deliver the newest treatments for stroke. Between 9 July and 12 October 2007, a consultation on a draft document was held, and over 1,000 responses were made, of which more than 800 were from individuals who had experienced stroke and their carers. These responses have helped to shape the development of the new strategy.

The strategy is constructed around 20 “quality markers” of a good stroke service covering four key areas: raising awareness and prevention; the importance of rapid assessment and treatment; provision of rehabilitation and care after stroke; and developing the workforce to meet these markers.

Awareness

A push on raising awareness of stroke symptoms among the public and the medical profession to ensure they know to react quickly—alongside wider work to encourage and support healthy lifestyles and manage risk indicators such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Acting on the warnings

Transient ischaemic attacks (TIA)—also known as “minor strokes”—are a clear warning sign that a further stroke may occur, and the time window for action is very short. In about half of cases this is a matter of days. Stroke as a medical emergency: getting people to the right hospital quickly—where there are specialists who can deliver acute treatments including thrombolysis—will save lives. This means immediate transfer of suspected stroke patients to specialist centre—offering clinical assessment, scans and thrombolysis. Stroke unit quality: stroke unit care is the single biggest factor that can improve a person’s outcomes following a stroke. Successful stroke units are those which are able to meet the needs of the individuals. People must get there on day one and spend the majority of their time on a stroke unit.

Improving support long term in the community

This focuses particularly on intensive rehabilitation immediately after stroke, which can limit disability and improve recovery. Health, social care and voluntary services need to work together to provide the long-term support people need, as well as access to advocacy, care navigation, practical and peer support.

Workforce

People with stroke need to be treated by a skilled and competent workforce. Resources to assist services in planning their workforce requirements are signposted in this strategy. Central funding will be made available for more stroke physician training places and training packages, particularly for specialist nurses and allied health professionals. Service improvement: this new vision for stroke care demands services working together in networks, looking across all aspects of the care pathway.

The strategy has been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members in the Vote Office.